Every story has its ups and downs. And not every reader will like everything in the same way. You might hate a piece the next person falls in love with. And the beautiful thing about stories is that that’s perfectly acceptable. We bring our lives to our stories as writers and readers/viewers. If you want to craft your story with purpose, there are many things you can do. One of which is to study stories that work. Here’s how you can write like Warcross.
Bring your own life to your stories
We all live lives that are rich with experiences different from the person next to us. Those experiences are what shape our stories. They also affect how we interpret what we read. A story belongs just as much to the readers as to the writer. Though we may not know the writer’s intentions, we certainly interpret a story based on the way our own mind works as readers. That’s important to understand as you craft your own stories.
We’ve all heard the phrase: write what you know. And, I’m sure you’ve heard from someone else to write what you don’t know. Or, to write what you want to know. In any case, the fact remains, we bring our own selves into a story.
What we often forget when writing the things we imagine is that our readers are intelligent. They can tell when a protagonist is a thinly veiled version of the writer. So, we must know ourselves and our characters before we go about writing something new. I like to say: live intentionally to write intentionally.
For example, Marie Lu says in the acknowledgements that all of her books have a little bit of her in them. This one even features her corgi. That said, I couldn’t point out exactly which parts of this story were her (though I admit that I do not know her personally). Emika had her own wants and needs. She experienced losses. And, she was on her own journey.
Your characters can have some of your personality traits, but you should know why they like the things they do. Why do they act a certain way? Think about them as an entity separate from yourself when you’re creating.
What are you trying to say?
When we create a story, our first draft might be the way our subconscious mind deals with something. We might not even know the issue we are dealing with. Stephen King is a great example learning something about himself from his writing. But, if you want readers to actually read (and actually enjoy) your story, you have to move beyond a first draft. And, you can’t do that if you don’t know what you’re trying to say.
Warcross is an interesting look at how we use technology and what it means to have freewill. But, that’s on top of an action adventure story that is fun to read and has high stakes. It’s important to know your theme, but don’t let your message get preachy. Instead, weave your theme into your story through the plot and character actions. In fact, I almost think it’s easier to consider your theme only after you’ve written your novel. But don’t let that stop you if you’re someone who needs to know before you create a new document or open a new page.
One thing I find that helps is to use the first 7 sentences as a guide. Those sentences, when well-crafted, set up the promise you make to your reader. They can encompass your tone, mood, and conflict right off the bat. And, even hint at what your story is about and what you’re trying to say. What I mean is, figure out what you need to know before you start your story, but don’t let that prep work stop you from doing the important thing: writing.
“Use Exposition as Ammunition” – Shawn Coyne
One of my favorite pieces of advice Shawn gives is to use exposition as ammunition. What he means is this: don’t just pour a bunch of backstory into your novel, especially right off the bat. If you want your readers to attach to your characters, your world, and the plot you, you can’t bog them down with details that aren’t absolutely essential.
You’re dropping your readers into a world they may never have experienced before. It’s easy to think that you have to explain the surroundings and past so that your reader can catch their balance. Using exposition as ammunition is exactly the opposite. It reminds you that your readers are more intelligent than you think they are. And that, they already picked up your book, so give them a chance to actually read it before you tell them details that don’t progress the story.
The first chapter of Warcross is a great example of this. We learn that Emika is struggling for money, but that she’s a resourceful character. Without “telling” us that Emika has a criminal record, that she needs the money, or that has hidden resources, Lu instead “shows” us through Emika’s chase of this latest bounty. We also get hints of Warcross and Hideo. And, what I find interesting is that this chapter is action packed but still doesn’t include the inciting incident of the entire story. It’s a great introduction to the character and what’s to come.
Do this yourself
I think the best piece of advice I can give you as a writer (besides studying stories that work – or ones that don’t) is to write intentionally (and, of course, to live intentionally). Get to know your process. Follow another writer’s if that helps. But, learn how you work and get yourself to do the work. The most important thing is to do the most important thing however you know how.